Two Paqtnkek ath­letes to run in Cay­man Is­lands half-marathon

The Casket - - Sports - SAM MAC­DON­ALD sam­mac­don­[email protected]­cas­ket.ca

Char­lie Ashawasegai and Ha­ley Paul like to run. They like it so much, that it’s the rea­son they’re go­ing to be run­ning in the half­marathon event at the Cay­man Is­lands 2018 In­tertrust Cay­man Is­lands Marathon.

Linda Peters, phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity lead­er­ship co­or­di­na­tor with Paqtnkek Mi’kmaw Na­tion, was ef­fu­sive in her praise of the run­ning prow­ess of Char­lie and Ha­ley, not­ing they are an in­spi­ra­tion with their ded­i­ca­tion to the sport.

"Ha­ley has al­ways been ac­tive in the com­mu­nity, through sports and re­cre­ation. She plays hockey in the rec league and has been into hockey all her life. As long as I can re­mem­ber, she’s been on the ice," Peters said, not­ing that Ha­ley’s nat­u­ral ath­leti­cism helped her de­velop the en­durance re­quired to run long dis­tances.

Ha­ley, the 2017 ath­lete of the year in Paqtnkek, also has the dis­ci­pline to train for a marathon – she re­cently com­pleted the

Black Bear Pro­gram over the sum­mer; a six-week Indigenous pri­mary re­serve ba­sic mil­i­tary train­ing course.

"She lost her mom pretty sud­denly to can­cer, and de­spite the hard­ship that meant, she still ex­cels," said Peters. "She’s in aca­demic classes, and works hard."

Peters noted that Char­lie has also ben­e­fit­ted from the de­mands of a steady train­ing sched­ule, as well. Through his run­ning train­ing, Char­lie was able to dis­cover the tremen­dous ca­pac­ity for long dis­tance run­ning he has – and gained men­tal fo­cus he has been seek­ing all his life.

"I asked him, ‘what is the best thing you get out of all of this?’ He thought about this for a sec­ond, and said, ‘I get my mind. I have con­trol over my thoughts and can fin­ish a thought,’" Peters said. "Char­lie has ADHD, and has al­ways strug­gled to keep up with team sports, sched­ules – stuff like that. This is some­thing he can do on his own, and he can fo­cus on it. He thrives from what he is do­ing."

Peters said that Char­lie – her nephew – has gone from some­one constantly be­ing dis­ci­plined and lec­tured for get­ting into sit­u­a­tions at school, is now be­ing lav­ished with well-earned pos­i­tive at­ten­tion for his ac­com­plish­ments.

"They’re all con­grat­u­lat­ing him for run­ning. Last week, he ran 18 km, and he’s high-fiv­ing teach­ers, and they’re all prais­ing him," Peters said. "You see the changes in him ev­ery­where be­cause of this – it’s pretty cool."

Peters said that not only has run­ning helped Char­lie cul­ti­vate dis­ci­pline – he’s be­come in­cred­i­bly am­bi­tious as a re­sult of his suc­cess.

"He did his first 10k run, knocks on my door drenched in sweat and screamed, ‘Aunty, I just ran 10K.’ I didn’t even get to say any­thing, be­cause he turned around and kept run­ning. I was like, ‘Wow, that kid just ran 10 k. and it didn’t even phase him,’" Peters said. "He just turned around and kept run­ning."

Af­ter com­plet­ing 10K, Char­lie told Peters he wants to run a full marathon – a stag­ger­ing 42 km.

"He’s only signed up for the half-marathon, but that’s where he is. His mind is al­ready there, at the full-marathon-level," Peters said.

Mak­ing it hap­pen­haley

and

Char­lie’s trip to the Cay­man Is­lands is, in part, be­ing made a re­al­ity by the Healthy Hori­zons pro­gram – one that pro­vides struc­ture and fund­ing to the plans for the two young run­ners to travel to the half-marathon.

Much of the work through the pro­gram is co­or­di­nated by Mag­gie Mac­don­nell, a teacher who has a his­tory of be­ing able to make things hap­pen with stu­dent ath­letes.

Mac­don­nell, a 2017 Global Teacher Prize re­cip­i­ent and East Antigo­nish Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­tre/ Academy [EACA] grad­u­ate, pro­vided $5,000 in fund­ing for Ha­ley to at­tend the Cay­man Is­lands Half-marathon, Dec. 2, 2018.

Since July, Paqtnkek and EACA have been work­ing with Mac­don­nell to co-or­di­nate the project and ar­range for Char­lie and Ha­ley to travel to the Cay­mans.

Mac­don­nell is no stranger to mak­ing it hap­pen. She has done very sim­i­lar work with Indigenous stu­dents in Sal­luit, Que­bec, en­cour­ag­ing a sim­i­lar love of run­ning in stu­dents in the re­mote north­ern Que­bec com­mu­nity.

While Ha­ley is en­tirely spon­sored through Mac­don­nell, Char­lie sought the sup­port of a lo­cal busi­ness in the Paqtnkek/ Monastery area, so he too could par­tic­i­pate in the half-marathon. He drafted a let­ter re­quest­ing fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance from Joe Jel­low, owner of the Monastery Petro-canada ser­vice cen­tre. Jel­low agreed, and is pro­vid­ing spon­sor­ship for Char­lie.

Since all the fundrais­ing for par­tic­i­pa­tion in the marathon is done, Peters said the re­main­der of the fundrais­ing is just for food and ac­com­mo­da­tions while the run­ners are in the Cay­mans.

Some fundrais­ing re­mains to be done, and the com­mu­nity is ral­ly­ing be­hind its two top run­ners, with an as­sort­ment of ac­tiv­i­ties to sup­port them; rang­ing from the sale of com­mu­nity din­ners, to the sale of ticks for a quilt Char­lie’s mother made dur­ing a re­cent pow­wow.

In­spi­ra­tion

Both Char­lie and Ha­ley are nat­u­rally tal­ented run­ners whose skill has had a ben­e­fi­cial side­ef­fect. In their train­ing, Char­lie and Ha­ley have in­spired fel­low stu­dents to join in on the fun, and run. This even­tu­ally be­came a more for­mal ar­range­ment, with Char­lie and Ha­ley start­ing a lunchtime run­ning group, putting in some miles over their lunch break.

"They meet dur­ing lunchtime – there’s a trail near the school – and they help other kids run that," Peters said.

In an email, Mar­sha Pur­cell, a teacher at EACA, wrote that Char­lie and Ha­ley’s ath­letic ac­tiv­ity and the ac­tiv­ity it is in­spir­ing in their peers, are pay­ing off through "im­proved re­silience and school per­se­ver­ance" in stu­dents, who are par­tak­ing in the lunchtime run­ning and do­ing bet­ter, aca­dem­i­cally.

"Our two run­ners are act­ing as vis­i­ble healthy role mod­els in the school and in their com­mu­nity, run­ning four to five times a week," Pur­cell wrote. "Th­ese two stu­dents are en­cour­ag­ing oth­ers to run with them af­ter school and re­cruit­ing youngers stu­dents to join our lunchtime run club," Pur­cell said.

"Al­ready youth and com­mu­nity mem­bers are say­ing that they want to be part of this project, next year. We plan on cel­e­brat­ing the stu­dents’ half-marathon suc­cess with a school rally and a pre­sen­ta­tion on their train­ing, the ben­e­fits and the trip."

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